Marco McMillian, perhaps the first viable openly gay candidate for elected office in Mississippi, was found dead near a Mississippi River levee yesterday morning in unclear circumstances. He had been missing for nearly a day, and what happened in between remains as big a question as whether his sexual identity and race had anything to do with the potential murder.
McMillian, who worked as a consultant to non-profit organizations, announced his candidacy for the mayoralty of Clarksdale, a 20,000-resident city on the Arkansas border, in a press release last month. A Democrat, he was running to lead a city with a majority white population in a county that Barack Obama carried last November by a 3-to-1 margin.
How his body ended up near the levee is unclear, though the local paper, the Clarksdale Press Register, indicates that the death is being investigated as a murder. On Tuesday morning, McMillian's SUV was involved in a head-on collision on a nearby highway in a vehicle driven by another man. (See update below.) That man, the Press Register suggests, may be the person of interest that police have in custody — and he may have been the one who told police where McMillian could be found.
That location is at least a dozen miles from the scene of the accident, according to reports. The map below depicts the distance between the crash (car icon) and the levee (red pin).
Why and how McMillian died is unclear. Online reaction has largely centered on his sexual identity and race, given his aspirations and his home state's history, but it's not clear that either of those characteristics were aspects of any motive. Phi Beta Sigma, the fraternity of which McMillian once served as international executive director, focused on the loss, rather than the cause.
Bro. Marco McMillian was responsible for securing the first federal contract to raise the awareness of the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on communities of color for the Fraternity. Additionally, he garnered new partnerships with organizations including City Year, Nationwide Insurance, the United States Marine Corps, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the National Council of Negro Women. In 2004, Ebony Magazine recognized Bro. McMillian as one the nation’s “30 up-and- coming African-American leaders less than 30 years old”.
The last update on on his campaign's Facebook page shares that grief. "We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life. Tragically, that life has been cut short."
Update, 5:22 p.m.: Lawrence Reed, the driver of McMillian's SUV, has been charged with the candidate's murder. According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, McMillian was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident, explaining both the day-long search and the distance his body was found from the accident site.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.